US Senator Sinema dashes Democrats’ hopes of pushing through voting rights reform

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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has rejected President Joe Biden’s call to drop a Senate filibuster rule to allow Democrats to pass a suffrage bill, ensuring thus the failure of the bill.

Sinema called the measure a key tool to smooth the country’s growing political divisions, while fellow centrist Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said removing the safeguard would allow simple majorities to push through extreme legislation.

Sinema went to the Senate to reiterate her opposition shortly before Biden met with fellow Senate Democrats to urge them to unite around the idea and pass legislation he said was essential to offset a wave of new restrictions on access to the ballot passed in Republican- led states.

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She called the flurry of new laws restricting ballot access in Republican-led states undemocratic, but said she would not agree to changing Senate rules to pass federal legislation countering them.

“I will not support separate actions that aggravate the underlying disease of division in our country,” Sinema said. “Some have given up on the goal of bridging our divisions and uniting Americans. Not me.”

After the meeting, Biden acknowledged that the bill may not succeed due to the couple’s opposition to the rule change. Read more

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) attends the Senate Democrats’ weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

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Manchin later reiterated his opposition to the move, stating, “Ending the filibuster would be the easy way out.”

All 50 Republicans in the House are united against the suffrage reform bill, which they see as a partisan power grab. Democrats need their 50 votes in the upper house to agree to amend the filibuster.

Sinema said previous filibuster edits turned out to be errors.

“These short-sighted actions by both parties have led to our current American justice system and Supreme Court, which, as I stand here today, is considering issues concerning basic rights that Americans have enjoyed for decades,” Sinema said.

Democrats in 2013 eliminated the 60-vote threshold for most administrative nominees, and Republicans followed suit in 2017 and did the same for Supreme Court nominees. It paved the way for Republican President Donald Trump to appoint three conservatives to the court during his four years in office, establishing a 6-3 majority.

Sinema’s speech brought together more Republican senators than his own party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was on the floor for his speech, later told reporters it was “extraordinarily important” and said Sinema’s “act of political courage” had ” saved the Senate as an institution”.

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Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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